Has Premier League monopoly ended once and for all?

For a while, four clubs had a monopoly on the top four places in the Premier League. Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal regularly made up the Champions League places until Spurs broke in during the 2009/10 season. Last season Man City finished third, and this year it seems that 6 clubs could compete for a top four spot. Here’s how they are all shaping up as the new season approaches:

Manchester United: Despite winning their 12th Premier League title last season, United have already made several changes to their squad. Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin Van Der Sar have all retired, Owen Hargreaves has left the club and several fringe players have been linked with moves away. Sir Alex Ferguson hasn’t been slow to bring in new faces, having spent over $40million to bring Phil Jones , Ashley Young and David De Gea to Manchester. The club have also been linked with strikers and midfielders, and it seems unlikely that Sir Alex has finished spending yet.

Chelsea: Under Roman Abramovich , second place just isn’t good enough. Although Chelsea challenged for the Premier League until the last few weeks of the season, Carlo Ancelotti was fired shortly after the season ended. After much speculation, Chelsea chose Porto’s highly rated Andre Villas-Boas as their new manager. At 33, Villas-Boas is younger than some of Chelsea’s key players, but arrives after a stunning season with Porto, winning the league, cup and Europa League. Abramovic is likely to give his new manager plenty of money to spend as the club seeks to re-claim the Premier League title, and finally win the Champions League.

Manchester City : The 2010/11 campaign was historic for City. They finished 3rd n the league, and won their first trophy for 35 years after winning the FA Cup. They will play in the Champions League for the first time this season after qualifying automatically for the group stages. Roberto Mancini has added Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic to his squad this week and Samir Nasri could follow. Mancini’s only problem appears to be the future of his captain, Carlos Tevez. Tevez has again asked for a transfer, and how he is replaced will be key to where City finish in the league this season.

Arsenal: Things have been going badly for Arsenal since the League Cup final. After the shock defeat to Birmingham, their league form bottomed out, and they slumped to a 4th place finish and face a qualifying match to reach the Champions League group stages. It seems unlikely that Arsene Wenger has enjoyed his summer so far, as Gael Clichy has already left the club and Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Nicklas Bendtner have all been tipped to leave. Wenger has yet to make any signings, and without doing so, Arsenal will struggle to keep their place in the top four.

Tottenham Hotspur: Despite a memorable debut in the Champions League, the 2010/11 campaign was something of a disappointment for Spurs. A lack of goals compared to the top 4 clubs, coupled with too many draws, meant that they finished in 5th place. There were positives for Harry Redknapp’s side, as Gareth Bale emerged as a star and summer signing Rafael Van Der Vaart added class to the midfield. Brad Friedel is the only signing Redknapp has made this summer, and it appears he may have to sell players before he can buy. Spurs need to add a top class striker, and also must keep playmaker Luka Modric if they are to return to the Champions League in 2012.

Liverpool: After the departure of Rafa Benitez last summer, the Liverpool board chose Roy Hodgson as his replacement. Following a change of ownership and a poor form, Hodgson was replaced by Liverpool icon Kenny Dalglish. This sparked a remarkable turnaround for the club (they eventually finished 6th), and Dalglish has been given money to spend to strengthen his squad. Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll joined in January, Jordan Henderson arrived this summer and Charlie Adam will join in the next few days. Liverpool still need a few more players to boost their squad, but if Dalglish gets it right, Liverpool could return to the top four.

Read more of David Dougan’s articles at This is Futbol